TagPink Coconut

The Birth of the Black Orchid – Despite the Disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon

Finding a site for a suitable nightclub in any town or city was always difficult. Especially back the 1980s, when everyone attending a nightclub, restaurant etc after 11pm had to consume a substantial meal so as to allow them to consume alcohol. Add to this the vociferous jockeying of the existing nightclub managers/owners who wanted to retain  the status quo, and often fuelled the police with stories of “streets of fear”. Although  the police generally took the view that enough was enough. Better the devil you know!

Nottingham was no exception. The city was regarded as prime hunting ground for nightclub customers, although it seemed impossible to even find a site. Never mind locking horns with existing nightclubs and authorities.

Then came a breakthrough. Property developers Wilson Bowen had a suitable site for a “Super Bowl” at Derby, and another one at Lenton Nottingham, which “may be suitable” for a nightclub. The infrastructure was complete, plus a completed Showcase cinema and Sawyers Bar Diner. All on the site of a former council rubbish tip.

Deals were done. Plans drawn. Project meetings planned. Spreadsheets prepared, scrutinised, and prepared again… and again. In amongst all this a trading budget was drawn up, with only the slightest hint of reality, which was deemed necessary to obtain funding.

Everything was looking good. Everyone looked forward to the birth of the Black Orchid – despite the disaster of trying to turn the Albert Hall into Babylon.

The plans and artist impressions were amazing. Terry Wheater and his team at Group Northern had really produced the goods – although those guys had also created Paradise Lost Watford, The Dome and Pagoda Park Birmingham, Pink Coconut Derby and a host of other multi-million pounds profit earners.

Everyone was ecstatic until it was realised that this would be one of the first night clubs in the country to fall under the new “Disabled Access” legislation.Then it was discovered that the chairman of the licensing committee had a disabled daughter who enjoyed nightclubs.

Back to the drawing board. Although it seemed that by providing access for a wheelchair to all facilities the project was scuppered, with the new plans presented in sombre mood. The building looked  odd; all ramps, slides and hiding places. Albeit with beautiful lighting and decor. Something of a giant Hamster Utopia.

Matters took a turn for the worse at the Entertainment Licence meeting, when the chairman announced that he had a disabled daughter, who would not want to go to the Black Orchid. Because it looked like a discotheque for the disabled, and she wanted enjoy a discotheque for the able-bodied.

After an awkward silence he smiled and said that she did not need access to every bar, or every restaurant or dancefloor. All she needed was to be able to enter and leave the building safely, get to a bar, toilet, and a dancefloor, and to be able to have a meal.

Smiles all round until he noticed the strapline “Dancing and Cavorting” and asked what was meant by “cavorting”. “Enjoying yourself”, came the reply, his look suggested that he interpreted it as “to behave in a physically lively and uninhibited way”. Mmm!

And the reality was that approximately one and half million customers danced and cavorted at what was to become one of the UK`s most iconic nightclubs.

Finally – In case anyone wonders how the name Black Orchid came about….

That`s simple.

The star of the horseracing world at that time was Desert Orchid!


The Pink Coconut Derby opened during December 1983

The Pink Coconut Derby opened during December 1983, although it could be said that Romeos and Juliets never really closed.

When the company directors set a profit target for Romeos and Juliets, they also promised a £230.000 budget for a complete refurbishment of the Colyear Street nightclub. In nightclub terms the budget was small, but luckily the company culture of the time was to ensure that everyone involved with decision making had a clear view of the facts.

Without doubt the sound systems had to be renewed to allow greater control of the volume throughout the rooms. The dance floors needed enlarging. And the toilets – oh dear – the toilets. How anyone coped with the tiny facility for such high attendances in Romeo and Juliets days is unimaginable, and probably best not asked.

On the positive side a near perfect team of entertainers, staff and support was already in place. There was also a capacity attendance of loyal customers, despite worn out carpets, wall coverings etc. To close the premises was unthinkable, where could the customers go to? And what if they found somewhere else and enjoyed it so much, they refused to return? No – the building could not close; and so the rolling refit began.

Romeos, the larger of the rooms was closed immediately. The room was stripped bare and major works began. Screens were built to cordon off the the work area, but some bare lighting was left on to show the customers how their club was progressing. Juliets was to become the Palm Grove, with the work undertaken from Sunday to opening time on the Thursday. The club only traded Thursday to Saturday.

Management were amazed at the enthusiasm of the staff and customers, who often helped to sweep,  dust, move building materials and generally tidy up. Later in the evening staff were often handed hammers, drills and other tools they had found in the club.

Group Northern, the design and build company may have an alternative view, but to the staff the refurbishment went like clockwork. Customers were amazed as shining chrome palm trees, illuminated planters, and neon covered bar ceilings reflected the symmetrical chrome features, glistened and reflected as the room came to life.

Whilst we now refer to the club as the Pink Coconut, it never had a working title because there was no budget for sign-age, letterheads etc. Luckily the Pink Coconut Brighton played a huge part in moving things forward.

On Tuesday the 13th and Wednesday 14th of December, the club opened to invited guests for trial runs. Then with all cylinders firing on the Wednesday for the VIP night.

It seems odd that one of the comments about the VIP night highlighted the number of millionaires in the venue, but this was well matched by the regular customers who felt they had been treated like millionaires. Because one thing was for sure –

Everyone was a VIP.

The image below gives a reminder of the simple but effective moving lighting feature, that filled the back of the stage, and illuminated the room.


Wonder if the guy in the striped shirt knows that he is mirroring the wallpaper, upholstery and carpet colour. He would have taken some finding if he had fallen asleep.

Tony Walker, Marie Burton and the management team worked hard, alongside Molly, Tracey and the remainder of the bar girls in their Lycra body stockings, Ida and the team in the cloakroom, Brenda on the buffet, Greg, Dave and co on the door, and the inimitable Bill in the gents toilets.

All in all a tremendous team, and a far reaching memory not only for former Derby club goers, but also those from around the country who visited the amazing Pink Coconut.




The biggest cheer went up for the Pink Coconut Derby mug

We`ve had pictures, fliers, booklets, stories, uniforms, secrets, memories, rumors and confessions sent into the Locarno Boy office – but the biggest cheer went up for the Pink Coconut Derby mug.

Anyone who bought a mug would have bought it from Sonia – who doubled up as one of the first CCTV operators – and she was the master!

While those inside the club danced to Madonna, Huey Lewis, The Thompson Twins, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Starship, Tears for Fears, WHAM, Phil Collins, USA for America, Chicago etc – Sonia kept  a watchful eye on those outside.

A moving camera at the bottom of the street identified those misbehaving – and a camera secreted at the front door captured the rest of the action.

Unfortunately the local idiots knew nothing about such technology – among which was the under brained  local football hooligans the Derby Lunatic Fringe (DLF) – who were upset at being banned from the club.

As retribution they contacted the Birmingham City hooligans – the Zulu Warriors – and asked them to create mayhem at the Pink Coconut. Which they did.

They charged the front doors with scaffold poles – which were jabbed through the slatted glass doors in an attempt to injure the security staff.

Eventually the police arrived, none of the staff was hurt, and the idiots dispersed. Any that were caught later denied ever having been near the Pink Coconut, and had an “alibi” from the DLF. Eventually solicitors pleaded their innocence, in the name of poor identification and wrongful arrests.

Alibis crumbled when they saw the CCTV images – and Sonia became a legend.

Word soon spread that if you caused any problems in range of the cameras Sonia would find you.

And her fame spread even further when Douglas Hurd, the then Home Secretary, viewed the footage when he visited Derby Police Station in 1985, to see the pioneering partnership work being undertaken between the Police and the licensed trade.

The working title of the partnership was PubWatch –

But that`s a whole new story for another day!










Pink Coconut days – when the men were men – and the women were ……………….grateful!

Pink Coconut days – when the men were men – and the women were ……………….grateful!

And a few more “bits” from the good old days –



Great times!




Was Caroline Topless? No one was Certain, but the Effect was Electrifying.

After we posted the Bocker – “Hey kid, give us 10p” story – a number of snippets have come into Locarno Boy relating to some of the people who were there at the time.


Caroline was the girl singer in the very last resident band to work the stage at Romeos and Juliet`s. Hazel O`Connor had recorded “Broken Glass”, and the team got together to try and beat the video version of Hazel`s performance.

The stage was blacked out other than for a waist high circular cut out in the centre of the stage, but with a powerful white light aimed towards the audience. Extra lighting was fitted around the stage along with pyrotechnics.

First the building was plunged into darkness – followed by the opening bars of music-  followed by a massive shaft of light, outlining Caroline`s silhouette – as she danced and mined to “Breaking Glass”. Powerful explosions of lighting and smoke crescendo-ed to the pace and excitement of the music, and the audience was captivated

Was Caroline topless?

No one was certain, but the effect was electrifying. Pure theater, and the subject of endless phone calls throughout the day and night to enquire about the 3 minute show.


We are also reminded of the two aging gentlemen who attended the Wednesday Club Solitaire night at the Pink Coconut. This was to eventually become the very successful “Over 25s Night”, but not without a considerable amount of image changing.

The two gentlemen were probably in their late 60s – and had come out to dance!

Unfortunately they filled the dance floor, with a style of dancing that had to be seen to be believed. The smaller of the two took up a position in the centre of the dance floor with his feet apart and both hands resting on his walking stick, while he swayed to the music like a trembling tripod. His friend, who wore a white suit, ran round and round the dance floor with his arms outstretched – something like a cross between a moth and a Spitfire.

The management puzzled for while as to how to get rid of them. One customer suggested that if one of them fell over they could be thrown out for fighting – but eventually they disappeared.


Then there was the famous Rolls Royce Christmas Party, which seems to have had little to do with Rolls Royce, but is rumored to have been one of most imaginative Summer Holiday funds.

The story goes that three or four Rolls Royce employees linked the first letters of their wives names to create a promotion company, and created one the most sought after Christmas nights out in the 1980s.


And of course there was Sarah the lighting operator at the Pink Coconut – and it can be really hot working those lights! So hot that sometimes you can forget  where you are – and strip to the waist.

It`s a mistake anyone can make!

She went to work at her partners topless bar in Spondon, where he wrote a letter to the Derby Telegraph to complain about himself; writing under the name of The Reverend Pratt. This created considerable publicity, and helped promote the venture.


But the truth of the matter is that everyone involved was a character. Some more noticeable than others, but each as important as the next. The late 70s and 1980s were a wonderful time to be clubbing, and the envy of so many 20 and 21 year old today who wait for the return of the “proper” clubs where you really missed something if you stayed in.

Where stage presentation was paramount, something different happened each week, and no amount of Jagerbombs would entice you elsewhere.

Brilliant memories!


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